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The Completely Useless Guide to London
The Completely Useless Guide to London
by Martin Pullen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun but not entirely useful information..., 23 July 2014
I was drawn to this book by the great title, which is a pretty accurate description of the contents. It is not a book to use if you want to know which are the best art galleries of the city, or how to find your way around Bloomsbury. Nor is it exactly a coffee table book; with its coarse paper and cartoons that look as if they were sent to the printer by fax you could call it functional at best.
But it does earn its keep with its contents, a host of trivial but sometimes fascinating bits of information. For example, Acton Power Station closed in 1983, and a couple of years later its inside was used, with the addition of suitable scenery, as a location for the film Aliens. Then three year's later the same location - and some of the same scenery - were used by the director Tim Burton for the scene in his first Batman film in which Jack Nicholson has the accident that turns him into The Joker. No, you can't go there - I gather that the station is now demolished - but don't you feel better for knowing that?


London's Secrets: Peaceful Places
London's Secrets: Peaceful Places
by David Hampshire
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A book for when you have had enough of the bright lights, 23 July 2014
On Amazon you will find plenty of guides to the bright lights of London that will tell you where to find historic sites, shopping, music, theatre and where to go to see and be seen. This book is an antidote to those books: once you have had your fill of London's noise and bustling you can reach for this book and use it to find your own sanctuary from the over 200 listed.
It offers chapters to match your mood and inclination covering destinations such as bookshops, museums or galleries, establishments offering spas or afternoon tea, peaceful places to stay or parks and cemeteries. Some of these can be found alongside more traditional tourist attractions; for example, in the shadow of Westminster Abbey is its College Garden, which was begun 1,000 years ago as its infirmary garden.
The book is very well presented being a well designed hardback including colour photos on glossy paper; I was relieved that this grand presentation was not reflected in its price!


London's Secret Walks: Explore the City's Hidden Places
London's Secret Walks: Explore the City's Hidden Places
by Graeme Chesters
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.36

4.0 out of 5 stars Great suggestions for seeing London with fresh eyes, 22 April 2014
If you go on a coach tour of London you can cram in as many of London’s sights as you have patience for, and hopefully stop and grab a quick look at a few of them too. But if you want to get a real feel for the city then grab this book, your walking shoes and maybe an umbrella and hit the streets. Unlike a planned city like New York, London has grown organically from a collection of villages, and this book peels back the years to show you what remains of them and their different characters.

London's Secret Walks gives 25 walks with a chapter per walk, and each can be tackled in half a day or less (or more if you visit many of the suggested hostelries en route). The first of these, Roman Britain, shows you what survives of London’s earliest days, but after that the chapter titles such as Bloomsbury, Notting Hill, St James, and Soho and Fitzrovia speak for themselves. I thought I knew my London: well, I didn’t – but I do now.


London's Hidden Secrets volume 2
London's Hidden Secrets volume 2
by Graeme Chesters
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Use this book to let London surprise you, 22 April 2014
You could, of course, use this admirable little book in the comfort of your home and hotel room to plan your visit to London in advance. But I think it would be more in the spirit of this book of hidden secrets to travel at random to somewhere in the city, open the book to see in which the book’s nine regional chapters covers the area you find yourself in you are in, then use the map at the start of the chapter to find the nearest place described.

To pick an example: you may perhaps find yourself perhaps near the Church of St Clement Danes, standing on an island in the middle of The Strand. The original church survived the Great Fire of London but was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren and stood until destroyed by bombing in the second world war, after which it was rebuilt again. But you may be more familiar with the church as the reputed home of the bells mentioned in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons.

That isn’t a typical example, in that the book doesn’t have a typical listing: the book’s 140 listings range over toy museums, half Tudor shops, Art Deco newspaper buildings and pubs owned by wizards from Middle Earth. Each gets two pages; one of photographs to give you an idea what to expect, and the other of text that gently informs and points out interesting features you might otherwise miss.


Quiet London
Quiet London
by Siobhan Wall
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Good looking but has weaknesses as a guidebook, 22 April 2014
This review is from: Quiet London (Paperback)
This book contains the author’s selection of places in London where you can escape from the city’s noise and bustle. It is divided into chapters covering different types of destination, such as museums, galleries and restaurants and cafes, and the book is well presented with a nice balance between the text and the well chosen photographs. But I thought that it had a few weak points which spoil it as a practical guide: it is in square format, which makes it too wide for most pockets; it lacks maps, which is quite a weakness when the chapters cover the whole city; and it doesn’t contain an index, so if you want to see if somewhere is covered you have to flick through the relevant chapter.


City Secrets London
City Secrets London
by Robert Kahn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

2.0 out of 5 stars A bit too dated for my taste, 22 April 2014
This review is from: City Secrets London (Hardcover)
City Secrets London takes an interesting approach to producing a London Guide: it uses what noted writers have said about London in the past to reflect the London of today. And as you would hope from literary publishers like Granta it looks like a thorough piece of work. But what stopped me from buying it was its retro design: someone has gone to a lot of time and trouble to produce a book that looks and feels like a drab school textbook from the 1960s - it is a smallish format hardback printed in black throughout. I would have forgiven much if the maps at least had been printed in colour, but no, they also appear in shades of grey. Ah well, as someone who was at school in the 1960s perhaps I am not their target market.


London's Secrets: Bizarre & Curious
London's Secrets: Bizarre & Curious
by Graeme Chesters
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Points out a London that you would otherwise miss, 24 Mar 2014
To me, one of the 300-odd listings in this great little book in particular. If you go to St James’ Park you will find what appears to be a conventional statue of William III mounted on a horse. But if you look closely around the feet of the horse you will see that the artist has included a molehill: it turns out that William had died from pneumonia which was a consequence of a breaking his collarbone when his horse tripped over a molehill'. Without the book’s guidance you would probably have missed this poignant detail.
This book will show you a London filled with such oddities, and shows you a quirky city that will be missed by all those tourists trying to cram in as many cultural highlights as possible into their trip. To list a few examples at random it will lead you to London’s oldest outdoor statue (an Egyptian lion goddess outside Sotheby’s): the column erected for the Duke of York, a man so unpopular that the only way to pay for its building was to dock the entire British Army a day’s pay: the world’s largest hanging basket in Paddington: and where near Sloane square you can pass by sections of the Berlin Wall. Or to King’s Cross station, where you will find both the rumoured site of Boadicca’s grave and also Harry Potter’s Platform 9 for the Hogwarts Express.
The book is sensibly laid out in regional chapters, each beginning with a map showing the locations of the offbeat attractions described, so that over each coffee stop you can plan the next stage of your expedition.


Tired of London, Tired of Life: One Thing A Day To Do in London
Tired of London, Tired of Life: One Thing A Day To Do in London
by Tom Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Design over content?, 27 Feb 2014
Had to mention this after seeing it in a bookshop because although the content seems ok and it is good value for a large format hardbook, the designer seems to have put a lot of work into the design without thinking what it is to be used for, ie a travel guide. It looks very pretty but the type size looks as if it comes from a primary school book - it is enormous, and there is loads of decorative but wasted white space. Not the sort of thing you would want to carry round London with you, or that I'd want to cram into my overnight bag. Perhapos you could give it to you partner in the hope that they would carry it!


London's Hidden Walks: Volume 1 (Explore London)
London's Hidden Walks: Volume 1 (Explore London)
by Stephen Millar
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite right for me, 27 Feb 2014
The other reviews here have mentioned some of the good points of this book, so I hope I can be forgiven for a few quibbles. Although the page size is small it is quite a fat book - 392 pages for its 13 walks - and so you if your pockets are modest like mine you will have either have to hold it in your hands all day or stow it in a bag and dig it out whenever you want to consult it (which you will need to do a lot). Lots of photos - I think it says 460 -but inevitably they are pretty small; this is no coffee table book!


A Year in London: Two Things to Do Every Day of the Year
A Year in London: Two Things to Do Every Day of the Year
by David Hampshire
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Original approach to an enormous subject, 17 Feb 2014
Interesting idea for a book, this. The trouble with London is that it offers an infinite number of choices: where to go, what to see, where to eat and what to do… Some books treat London as a series of lists to be ticked off, ie if you want culture you must go here, here and here; if you want to eat, then go there, there and there. Which is great, if all you want is to do is follow in the footsteps of untold thousands of other tourists.

This book on the other hand takes a wider view of the possibilities London has to offer, and uses the date as a device to suggest two a day of them to tackle. Although where relevant possibilities are linked to a date or time of year, such as the St George’s Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square or the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre, many more are not, and you can of course mix and match as you like. The book can take you from a 16.95 City Boy breakfast at a heritage pub at Smithfield Market to more ethnic delights at Brixton Market. And it doesn’t neglect Leap Years, suggesting either a private helicopter trip or a meal at Heston Blumenthal’s West End restaurant as appropriate for February 29th.


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